Basic Human Decency Should Be Granted Freely: In Response to Andrew Yang

Former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang (Photo credit: Getty / Stephen Maturen)

By Guest Contributor: Anouk Yeh

On April 1, the Washington Post released an op-ed written by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, addressing the increased Anti-Asian sentiment in the nation. In the article, Yang stated that in order to combat the rising xenophobia in the nation, Asian Americans across the nation needed to embrace their “American-ness in ways [they] never have before,” arguing that Asian Americans needed to prove their allegiance to the country in order to be viewed as “not the virus.”

Within hours of the article’s release, Yang was met with immense backlash from the Asian American community. Actor Simu Liu, who is set to play the first ever Asian-American marvel superhero, and writer and comedian Jenny Yang both took to twitter to express their disappointment with Yang’s statement, with Liu calling   “a slap in the face.”

This disappointment was no understatement, because to Asian American communities across the nation, Yang was not just a politician. Rather, he was a figurehead for the movement to increase Asian representation within higher political government. Although his campaign didn’t successfully make it into the White House, Yang was able to help blaze a starting trail for Asian American leaders to take the national stage.

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Andrew Yang is Wrong: Respectability Politics Won’t Save Asian Americans from Racist Violence

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang at the Sept 12 Democratic primary debate in Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, the FBI released a report detailing the attempted hate crime murder of an Asian American family — including the brutal stabbing of a two-year-old and a six-year-old child — by a man who blamed his victims for the COVID-19 outbreak. The attack is part of an alarming nationwide surge in racist anti-Asian violence currently being documented both by the FBI and Asian American community activists, and ranging from incidents of racist harassment and slurs to violent physical assault.

Most Asian American progressives have spent the last few weeks working tirelessly to address the growing epidemic of anti-Asian racism. We have been working to document the attacks, amplify stories of victims and survivors, draw connections to Asian American history, and create resources to support the traumatized — all in an effort to raise awareness about the current anti-Asian racial climate, and to urge the country to not give in to dangerous, hateful racism.

Andrew Yang has a different take.* Implying that Asian American progressives have been overly “negative” in calling out racism, the former presidential candidate wrote a painfully insensitive op-ed yesterday in the Washington Post (paywall).

In it, Yang instead suggested that the current pattern of anti-Asian violence is how people are “wired”. But, says Yang, Asian Americans can prevent hate crimes against us by “embrac[ing] and show[ing] our American-ness in ways we never have before.” Barring that, Yang suggests Asian Americans rush to find a cure for the novel coronavirus so that “any racism would likely fade”.

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Andrew Yang’s Problematic Reinforcement of the Model Minority Myth

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang at the Sept 12 Democratic primary debate in Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Tonight, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang joined the nine other top Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage at Texas Southern University. A noteworthy moment for Asian Americans, Yang remains one of the first Asian Americans in history to run a national campaign for the presidency.

That’s why it is all the more problematic that Yang routinely leans upon Model Minority stereotypes of Asian Americans to advance his candidacy. As early as last year, Yang routinely framed himself as qualified to be president because he is a “smart Asian” who is “good at math” — a classic Model Minority trope reminiscent of the infamous Time magazine cover that popularized model minority stereotypes for a generation of Americans. Tonight, Yang invoked a different facet of the Model Minority Myth when he quipped in response to a question on healthcare that “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.

The Model Minority Myth has stood at the root of a good deal of anti-Asian racism and oppression. Yet, Yang is unconcerned by the many ways that the Model Minority Myth hurts Asian Americans and other people of colour. Instead, Yang sees Model Minority caricatures of Asian Americans as something to lean into and to laugh at, and he even sells math-branded Yang swag in his campaign store.

I can’t but wonder if Andrew Yang sees Model Minority stereotypes as a joke, then who’s really laughing with him?

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